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In year one, land trust in Park County sees strong demand for conservation easements

The non profit held a community picnic at Canal Park in Park County last summer.
Park County Open Lands
The non profit held a community picnic at Canal Park in Park County last summer.

In its first year, Park County Open Lands has seen a lot of demand for conservation easements. Those are voluntary agreements where landowners can limit future development.

Park County Open Lands, which is a regional project of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, opened last February. The group's conservation values include wildlife habitat, agriculture, and open space.

In year one, the Park County Open Lands council greenlit 15 projects totaling more than 6,500 acres. One of those projects, a conservation easement for a ranch property, has closed, and the rest are in progress.

While they’ve seen a lot of demand, Regional Director Alex Few says conservation easements are still a new tool in Park County.

“One of the common misunderstandings is that the purchase of development rights cannot lead to the purchase of land. The choice to retain ownership or sell the land  to another entity always lies with the private landowner even if they’ve entered into a conservation easement,” she said.

Of the 14 projects underway, Few says, all but two of those are working agricultural lands.

Few says agricultural lands in Park County in particular provide important habitat for migratory ungulates.

The group hopes to close more conservation easements this year. Statewide, about one percentof land in Wyoming is in a conservation easement.

Olivia Weitz is based at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. She covers Yellowstone National Park, wildlife, and arts and culture throughout the region. Olivia’s work has aired on NPR and member stations across the Mountain West. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom story workshop. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, cooking, and going to festivals that celebrate folk art and music.

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